California's Sequoia RV Ranch Begins New Chapter
When Mitchell Brandon bought the 45-site Trailer Isle RV Park near the entrance to Sequoia National Park in California three years ago, he knew it was going to take a great deal of work and investment to transform the park into a viable weekend retreat or vacation destination.
The park, which fronts 1,800 feet of shoreline along the North Fork of the Kaweah River, had so many code violations that Tulare County officials required Brandon to sign on to an existing lien against the property before he could assume title, according to a news release.
“It had become low-income housing,” Brandon said. “There were squatters and some drug dealing going on. It had junkyard dogs on chains and several old trailers with lean-tos in addition to outside washers and driers. The landscaping was so overgrown you could hardly see the river.”
It took months of hard work to relocate the former tenants, remove a dozen abandoned cars and haul out more than three-dozen 40-square-yard Dumpsters filled with junk. But the initial cleanup paved the way for a $300,000 facelift that includes new campsites with new water and electrical connections, as well as a renovation of the bathhouse and office. The improvements, which also include new roadways, cable TV and wireless Internet service at each campsite, have helped Brandon begin a new chapter for the park with a new clientele and a growing business base. He renamed it Sequoia RV Ranch.
“Our biggest block of customers comes from the San Joaquin Valley. Most of our guests are from Bakersfield, Visalia and Tulare, but we also get quite a few from the Central Coast and Southern California,” he said.
While Three Rivers has cool weather during the winter, at 1,000 feet, it provides a sunny retreat for San Joaquin Valley residents when they tire of the Tule fog.
During the late spring and summer, the park becomes a popular destination for river rafting enthusiasts, attendees at several community events in Three Rivers as well as visitors from Europe and across the country who come to visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.
“We’re getting a good, steady flow of reservations, and a lot of repeat business,” Brandon said, adding that guests like the park’s natural scenic setting, the beautiful swimming hole and fishing at the edge of the river and the convenience of Wi-Fi service at their campsite.
Brandon is also happy to report that his park is receiving high scores on Camp-California.com’s GuestReviews surveys, which track consumer feedback on their camping experiences throughout California.
“We’re real pleased with the success Mitchell has had in transforming his park into a true vacation destination,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (CalARVC).
Sipe added that the private campground industry is attracting growing numbers of investors who are purchasing parks and transforming them into attractive weekend retreats or vacation destinations California residents as well as visitors from outside the state. “Entrepreneurs and investors are increasingly realizing that the campground business is a viable and growing niche within the travel and tourism industry,” Sipe said, adding that the campground industry has been the most resilient segment of the tourism business during the recession.